COVID-19

Step by step, here's how GM prepared its Warren plant for face mask construction

General Motors has stepped in and utilized its Warren transmission plant for face mask production.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors launched the project to produce face masks at scale on Friday, March 20, amid increasing pressure from the Trump administration to step up like Ford and FCA had. By next week, the automaker plans to deliver the first 20,000 masks to frontline workers.

"Our team began looking at ways we could quickly utilize our talents and resources to help in the shared fight against COVID-19," said Peter Thom, GM vice president, Global Manufacturing Engineering. "Working around the clock, our team rallied with incredible passion and focus to come up with a plan to produce masks that will help protect the women and men on the front lines of this crisis."

2020 face mask coronavirus production General Motors worked to create a clean environment for mask production. Photo courtesy of General Motors

How did it all come together? Here's a breakdown of the timeline of six days, 23 hours, 30 minutes, in GM's own words.

March 20-26, 2020

At 3 p.m. on Friday, March 20, the core team assembled for the first time, kicking off the project and starting the timer.

"Because we wanted to move fast, the team set an incredibly aggressive goal: To have the production line up and running tests within a week," said Thom.

More than 30 engineers, designers, buyers and members of the manufacturing team were asked to help with product development, sourcing materials and equipment, and planning the production process.

"The first people we called were those who work with fabric vehicle components," said Karsten Garbe, GM plant director, Global Pre-Production Operations. "In a few days, the company's seat belt and interior trim experts became experts in manufacturing face masks."

2020 face mask coronavirus production The company's interior and trim experts had to quickly pivot to working with new materials. Photo courtesy of General Motors

The team sourced the necessary raw materials by leveraging GM's existing supply chain. These materials include metal nose pieces, elastic straps and blown, non-woven fabric filter material. Simultaneously, GM collaborated with JR Automation in Holland, Michigan and Esys Automation in Auburn Hills to design and build the custom machinery needed to assemble the masks.

For the project, the team selected the ISO Class 8-equivalent cleanroom at GM's manufacturing plant in Warren. Work began at the Warren facility by removing existing equipment from the cleanroom. The team cleared approximately 31,000 square feet to accommodate the mask production lines. Crews then installed new electrical service lines to power the production equipment and assembly stations.

2020 face mask coronavirus production Production will begin next week and within two weeks ramp up to 50,000 masks per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day. Photo courtesy of General Motors

With the site cleared and prepped, production equipment and materials were then delivered to the Warren facility. Crews worked around the clock to install equipment and stage the production line. The team then tested each step in the production process, looking for opportunities to improve quality and production speed.

March 27, 2020

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 27, the project team had their first production-made mask in their hands.

"Not only did the team make their goal, but they over-delivered," said Thom. "They actually beat our deadline, running the first mask through the equipment 30 minutes ahead of target. We're excited because this means we're even closer to being able to protect the healthcare teams who are working tirelessly to save lives."

March 30, 2020

The projected production volume is just as aggressive as the project's timeline. By Monday, March 30, more than 2,000 masks were produced by teams working through the weekend. These initial test samples will be used to ensure the quality standards are met. Once these quality measures are completed, the team expects to start producing masks for delivery early next week.

2020 face mask coronavirus production Engineers and technicians set-up and test the machines that will be used to manufacture Level 1 face masks Monday, March 30, 2020 at the General Motors Warren, Michigan manufacturing facility. Photo courtesy of General Motors

GM and the UAW will seek more than two dozen paid volunteers from Detroit-area plants to staff mask operations. In addition, GM has implemented a series of safety measures to protect these team members through physical distancing, enhanced on-site cleaning and pre-entry health screening.

Planned: April 8, 2020

The team expects to have 20,000 masks ready for delivery on Wednesday, April 8. Once the line is running at full speed, it will be able to produce up to 50,000 masks every day – or up to 1.5 million masks a month. GM is currently developing a plan for distributing the masks, including using some of this important safety equipment to protect employees in critical GM operations.

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Cadillac will be the first brand with Ultra Cruise

General Motors

Tesla has been in hot water for a while now for shenanigans pulled by owners abusing the automaker's advanced cruise control functions. While the company's Full Self Driving (FSD) tech isn't quite ready for primetime, other automakers are catching up – quickly. Today, General Motors announced Ultra Cruise, its advanced driver assistance tech that promises to allow hands-free driving in 95 percent of driving scenarios.

Ultra Cruise Ultra Cruise will build on Super Cruise functionality.General Motors

GM notes that its goal is to eventually roll the service out to all paved roads in the U.S. and Canada. When it launches, the service will work on over two million miles of roads, which could nearly double as the program expands.

Ultra Cruise will offer a host of automated driving features that build on Super Cruise:

  • Dynamic display system
  • Ability to react to permanent traffic control devices
  • Follow internal navigation routes
  • Maintain headway and follow speed limits
  • Support automatic, on-demand lane changes
  • Support left and right turns
  • Support close object avoidance
  • Support parking in residential driveways

The system uses LiDAR, radar, and cameras to build a 360-degree, three-dimensional picture of the world around it. An additional LiDAR unit is located behind the windshield. GM notes that a big part of the system is its Human Machine Interface (HMI), which communicates with the driver to alert them when they need to take control. Ultra Cruise-equipped vehicles will do this with a head-up display that helps drivers stay focused on the road, and will use the same driver monitoring cameras that are used in Super Cruise.

Ultra Cruise Ultra Cruise will enable hands-free driving in the majority of driving scenarios.General Motors

Ultra Cruise will first be available in Cadillac vehicles starting from 2023. There's no word on pricing or specific vehicle availability at this time.

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Honda notified dealers of upcoming supply cuts.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda, like all major automakers today, is truly a global operation. Though it produces plenty of vehicles here in the United States, many of the components it relies on for manufacturing come from elsewhere in the world. That means Honda, like the other auto giants, needs its global supply chain operating smoothly in order to prevent disruption. Unfortunately for Honda dealers and potential customers, disruption is what's about to happen. The automaker recently sent a letter to its dealers, forecasting reduced vehicle supply in the coming weeks.


2021 Honda Ridgeline No. 19 - Honda Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


The dealer letter, posted to the Civic XI forum and fan site, was dated August 25 and confirmed by a dealer upset with the development, according to Automotive News. In the letter, Honda cites the ongoing pandemic and microchip shortages as major factors impacting its production efforts. Total shipments to dealers could be cut by up to 40 percent, but not all models will be affected to the same degree.

The letter noted that supplies of the Pilot and Passport SUVs will hold steady, and shared that production of the Civic hatchback is on schedule. However, the situation is fluid and could change at any time, so there's a chance that timelines could speed up or slack off as necessary.


2022 Honda Pilot Some models will see more cuts than others.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


Honda is just the latest in a long line of automakers struggling to keep pace with demand in the face of several converging global crises. In an effort to keep vehicles rolling out of factories, General Motors has implemented selective feature cuts in some of its new vehicles, such as the removal of engine start/stop tech from some trucks and SUVs. Earlier this month, Ford Motor Company told Mustang Mach-E buyers to expect delays of at least six weeks as it grapples with the chip shortage, and will temporarily reduce production capacity at a few of its plants.

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